Internet Culture as Digital Content: VSTE12 Presentation

This presentation is essentially a pitch for the idea that we ought to be looking at the world with open eyes and paying attention to the content that is exciting to ourselves and others- the things we read/watch/listen to without being coerced.

The introduction it is a rehash of the RSS aggregator pitch that I’ve given off and on since 2002. I know Twitter is much cooler and RSS is pronounced dead on a regular basis but Twitter fills a very different niche for me and I think the RSS aggregator still has a lot of value. I also stressed the idea that you have to aggregate feeds you actually want to read. That’s very different than feeds you feel you ought to want to read. Make this unpleasant for yourself and you will never, ever, read them. Build feeds that rejuvenate and interest you and then bring that into your instruction.1

My goal was to point out the huge swathe of low hanging fruit waiting for the right teacher to look at it in the right way- essentially the antipode of most of the content we use in education. This is really more of a change in philosophy than anything else. I’m hoping people open their minds to a larger idea of what might qualify as digital content.

I started with a lot of the usual suspects and then wandered into stranger territory. I’ll repeat them here because no matter how common things seem, or how many times I feel they’ve been discussed, they still aren’t for large numbers of people.

cc licensed ( ) flickr photo shared by Smithsonian Institution

Flickr Commons was one stop. I choose the picture above as an example because it was a slight twist on the idea about using images as examples for writing. I liked the idea of having images of actual historical scientific journals to use as an example for students working on their own scientific journals. The image being from the Smithsonian also adds credit to the resource.

Another more targeted potential is the fact that there are many, many podcasts in iTunes that are meant to be informative.2 For instance, I listen to BackStory.

On each show, renowned U.S. historians Ed Ayers, Peter Onuf, and Brian Balogh tear a topic from the headlines and plumb its historical depths. Over the course of the hour, they are joined by fellow historians, people in the news, and callers interested in exploring the roots of what’s going on today. Together, they drill down to colonial times and earlier, revealing the connections (and disconnections) between past and present. With its passionate, intelligent, and irreverent approach, BackStory is fun and essential listening no matter who you are.

I listened to Love Me Did: A History of Courtship which gave an interesting history of dating and courtship but also highlighted the blog Advertising for Love which is a culling of interesting historical personal ads that offer a unique kind of insight into our culture. This kind of thing being served up on a platter for you to use with students still amazes me. The fact that you can also dip into the LOC archives for historical newspapers to do your own research with students is more than just icing.

An American gentleman, thirty years of age, wishes to form the acquaintance of some American lady (an orphan preferred), not less than 18 nor more than 24 years of age, with a view to matrimony. She must be of the highest respectability, prepossessing and genteel in appearance, of good education, accustomed to good society and of a loving disposition. Any lady answering the above can do so with the utmost confidence, as all communications will be strictly confidential, and letters returned when requested; for this means just what it says, nothing more and nothing less. Address for three days, giving real name and where can be seen (none others will be noticed), Knickerbocker, box 164 Herald office.

From Advertising for Love

I put forward some of these more Internet culture-ish options that I happen to follow while stressing, once again, that I’d read these for my own amusement anyway. Some of these are no doubt well known but others are a bit stranger.

  • Quantified Self – “Are you interested in self-tracking? Do you use a computer, mobile phone, electronic gadget, or pen and paper to record your work, sleep, exercise, diet, mood, or anything else? Would you like to share your methods and learn from what others are doing? If so, you are in the right place. This short intro will help you get you oriented.”
  • Global Guerrillas – “Networked tribes, system disruption and the emerging bazaar of violence. A blog about the future of conflict.”
  • The New Aesthetic – “Since May 2011 I have been collecting material which points towards new ways of seeing the world, an echo of the society, technology, politics and people that co-produce them.

    The New Aesthetic is not a movement, it is not a thing which can be done. It is a series of artefacts of the heterogeneous network, which recognises differences, the gaps in our overlapping but distant realities.”

  • Street Art Utopia – street art/graffiti from all over the world
  • Nothing to do with Arbroath – really strange news and videos from all over the world
  • McSweeny’s – an English teacher’s dream for content and ideas for projects, writing prompts etc.
  • Junk Charts – bad charts and breakdowns of why they’re bad
  • boing boing – an old standby
  • SuperPunch– cartoons, art, and really interesting links
  •– pretty much an endless supply of media from Grateful Dead bootlegs to drive in movie commercials with dancing cigarettes

1 I will note that if you aren’t interested in your subject or the world in general as it applies to your subject you might consider alternate employment.

2 Think educational and interesting but without the need for a grade to make someone listen/watch.

Comments on this post

  1. Shannon (@shauser) said on December 6, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    Man, I feel like I’m sharing the wavelength with you right now.

    There is so much good stuff out there that isn’t tapped in to and would be so beneficial for teaching and learning. Some of the coolest stuff in college happened when professors were clearly sharing stuff from their own digital territories. It provided me a closer connection to the professor because I felt like they were sharing some of their journey with me in way. Most students don’t know where to begin to look for good stuff and often time professors know all this good stuff and aren’t even sharing it.

    Twitter is a great way to get a glimpse of other peoples digital travels and share some of the good stuff but, RSS will always be the trails for my own travels.

    Also, I’m totally checking out the BackStory podcast. I’ve never even heard of it before but, sounds like something I’d love.